Inside Augusta

Maine Legislature accepts new redistricting plans, approves legal action on federal lobster rules

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The Maine Legislature convened on September 29 and approved new maps for federal congressional districts, state House of Representatives and Senate districts, and county commissioner districts.

All four maps passed both chambers by more than the two-thirds majority required by the Maine Constitution. The Senate passed each of the four maps unanimously by votes of 31-0. The House of Representatives passed the congressional districts map by a vote of 127-0, the county commissioner and Senate district maps by votes of 129-0, and the new House districts map by a vote of 119-10.

The legislature made no changes to the maps the Apportionment Commission submitted, but some legislators did express dissatisfaction with the way districts had been drawn.

In the House, Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Trenton), who currently represents House District 132, objected to the changes that had been made in her district. Grohoski noted that Trenton and Ellsworth have historically been in the same district but must be separated because of population growth. She objected to moving Trenton into a district populated by towns on the Blue Hill Peninsula, with which she said Trenton shares no characteristics and no geographic border. 

Grohoski said this violated the Maine Constitution’s requirement that districts be contiguous. She said Trenton would have been better placed in a district with Mount Desert Island and submitted a plan to the Apportionment Commission that would have done this. Grohoski voted against the new district map for the House. 

Rep. Lynne Williams (D-Bar Harbor), who represents both Bar Harbor and Lamoine in House District 135, which do not share a physical boundary, responded to Grohoski and urged members to support the redistricting plan.

In the Senate, Sen. David Miramant (D-Knox) offered an amendment to the proposed House of Representatives district map. The plan submitted by the Apportionment Commission split Owls Head between House District 42 and House District 43. 

Miramant objected to splitting the town between the districts. His amendment moved Owls Head entirely into District 42 and moved North Haven from District 42 and into District 15.

Sen. Jeffrey Timberlake (R-Androscoggin) made a motion to table the amendment indefinitely. The House map was passed as submitted to the legislature by the Apportionment Commission, leaving Owls Head split between District 42 and District 43. 

Following passage of the maps by both chambers of the legislature, the new district plans were sent to Gov. Janet Mills for signature. Mills signed all four redistricting bills shortly after they reached her desk.

“I applaud Maine’s Apportionment Commission, especially its Chair, former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander, as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for preparing and approving new maps that fulfill our commitment to making sure Maine people are equally and fairly represented in their government,” said Governor Mills in a press release. “To have done so without rancor and partisanship and under a constrained timeline is something Maine people can be proud of.”

The legislature also passed a joint order directing the Legislative Council to take legal action on behalf of the legislature against the lobster fishing rules recently announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

The order authorizes the Legislative Council to join any pending legal action it determines appropriate as related to NOAA’s 2021 biological opinion on right whale conservation or its final rule, which closes approximately 1,000 miles of lobster fishing grounds in the Gulf of Maine between October and January.

The joint order also states the Legislative Council may limit the scope of its opposition to portions of the biological opinion or final rule, including “those imposing increased conservation measures, seasonal closures on lobstering zones, limitations on the number or type of buoy lines and restrictions on other lobster fishing gear.”

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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